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Chapter 76: Dispute
The defendants of the courtroom agreed after hearing the judge talk. Song Shiren passed the document of complaint to Mei Zhili, who pretended to scan through it before handing it to Zheng Tu, who in turn gave it to Fan Xian to read. Fan Xian read through it meticulously and found that it was pretty much as he expected it to be. He nodded and returned the piece of paper.
Song Shiren spoke coldly with balled fists. "As a student, I can’t understand why Mr. Fan Xian remains aloof in the courtroom. He has not performed a formal greeting or knelt down in respect. With this kind of attitude, it's no wonder he committed those violent crimes last night."
Fan Xian glanced at the lawyer who complained before questioning curiously, "You have to kneel in court?" He was, of course, well-educated on the laws of this country and was familiar with the formality, having done a lot of reading in Danzhou. His question was an intentional one.
"Naturally, or would you disrespect the greatness of the imperial government?"
Song Shiren eyed his opponent with a frown. He had not wanted to be involved in this case, as after all, the opposition was the inconspicuous Fan family, whose power was feared by many. He did not have much of a choice though as he had been a high official for so long that he could no longer turn back, so there was no room for rejection.
Fan Xian chuckled and said, "Why is it that Mr. Song has not knelt down then?"
Song Shiren squinted at the boy; he was unsure if the boy was truly an idiot or just acting. He retorted immediately, "According to government regulations, one with achievements need not kneel in front of the magistrate."
Fan Xian bowed at Mei Zhili and said, "When a student sees a teacher, are they required to kneel?"
Hearing this, Song Shiren was certain that his opponent was one with achievements. His previous research on Fan Xian revealed that he had never sat an imperial exam before, so how did he turn out to be a scholar? He stroked the fan in his hands and questioned, "Might I dare ask what year Mr. Fan took part in his imperial examination?"
Fan Xian replied politely, "Last year in Danzhou." This was pre-arranged by Fan Jian before Fan Xian came to the capital. Only till the day of the court case did he realize that he had somehow attained the title of scholar.
The subject of kneeling was dismissed and the court case officially began. Both sides discussed the main topics, each expressing their own opinion. Guo Baokun had no doubt that he was attacked by Fan Xian and his guards, while Zheng Tu was certain Fan Xian was in Fan Mansion the entire night and that there were plenty of servants who could attest to that. Conflict arose and sounds of discussion from the civilians watching from outside got louder. It seemed that the majority believed Fan Xian was innocent. They couldn't imagine the pretty and gentle boy as a cruel person. On the other hand, the beaten up Mr. Guo in the wheelchair looked like a suspicious man.
Mei Zhili grew weary of the noisy dispute. He waved his hands in the air and the civilians went silent.
"Judge, May I ask why you haven’t made an arrest when the culprit is standing in the court?" Song Shiren’s voice was loud and intimidating. He thought that the documents could not have been even clearer, but the magistrate judge was yet to make a call. He began to suspect that he was biased towards the Fan family and so decided to press the matter.
Zheng Tu smirked, "Let’s not jump to conclusions, Mr. Song. The document states that the assault on Mr. Guo happened after his head was covered by a bag. So tell me, how could he possibly determine that the culprit was Fan Xian when he could not see?"
"Naturally by having heard Mr. Fan’s voice. What’s more, Mr. Fan admitted that it was him at the time. Have you changed your mind and decided to deny the charges

instead?" Song Shiren looked at Fan Xian with a sneer and continued with a taunt, "What kind of man are you if you can’t even take responsibility for what you did?"
Fan Xian was aware that his opponent was trying to provoke him. Despite this, his expression remained calm with a mixture of astonishment. It was as if he was confused as to why the man in front was accusing him falsely. Zheng Tu’s voice cut in and he spoke mockingly, "Voice? I’ve never heard of any case being determined by a voice- and I know the laws inside out."
Song Shiren did not back down, instead he spoke deliberately, "If voice is not enough to prove Mr. Fan’s identity, then allow me to show everyone a poem." With this, he retrieved a piece of paper from within his sleeve and recited slowly.

The absent-minded Mei Zhili behind the bench was suddenly awakened from his daze by the poem and he spoke energetically, "What a wonderful poem. Who is the poet?" Only then did he realize that he was not in his study, or in a poem festival but in court working on a case. He cleared throat and requested the piece of paper from Song Shiren.
He inspected the piece of paper in detail and saw not only the brilliance of the poet, but also how rarely elegant the calligraphy was. Curious, he asked Song Shiren, "Who is the poet and what does this have to do with the case?"
Song Shiren replied respectfully, "This poem was written by Fan Xian during the poem festival at Jing palace yesterday. When Mr. Fan assaulted Mr. Guo on the street, he recited these lines. It’s quite obvious he was belittling Mr. Guo."
Mei Zhili was amazed. He observed the bright-faced and innocent-looking young man in court, bewildered at the fact that he could have written such a poem. He felt a sense of regret for him- why would he recite his poem if he was beating someone up? Not to mention the fact that the elegance of the poem did not even fit the violent environment of a fight. Furthermore, he had essentially provided his opponent evidence against himself.
Mei Zhili was a well experienced man, however the key to how he managed to secure his position as the capital’s magistrate could be found in his skill in blurring the lines between right and wrong. There are many rich, powerful and formidable figures gathered in the capital. If he had been fair in all of his cases, he would not have lasted long. He remembered back to when he first worked for the palace and of how Guo Gonggong had given him the advice of making concessions to avoid trouble. Mei Zhili had since then lived many peaceful years because of that advice.
Today’s case was no different, as he planned to maintain the attitude he’d always had and refrain from making any decisions. He would leave them to sort out their differences themselves, and if that didn’t work out, he would delay the case for a couple days and send them to the Ministry of Punishments. If he planned to stay out of trouble, then he had to avoid closing this case his court. He glanced worriedly at Fan Xian and Zheng Tu.
Zheng Tu had once worked for Mei Zhili for a while as his clerk, and knew what was on his old boss’s mind. He chuckled, "This is ridiculously funny. Many scholars were gathered on the day of the poem festival, and Mr. Fan’s poetry stood out from the rest. It can only be assumed that people had taken note of it, so it’s not unusual that others know the poem. More importantly…"
He glanced at Song Shiren coldly with a sneer and continued, "…do you think Mr. Fan is out of his mind? Reciting a poem he had written while beating up a man during the night?! Only an idiot would be stupid enough to reveal his identity, not to mention how ridiculously amusing the whole situation already is. It’s quite obvious that someone who has a feud with Mr. Guo knew of Mr. Fan and Mr. Guo’s disagreement in the restaurant a few days ago. The real culprit had obviously planned to mislead Mr. Guo into thinking that Fan Xian was the culprit."
It seemed that his hypothesis was quite logical. Fan Xian who smiled while standing silently to the side.- What was it he said…?" Only an idiot would be stupid enough?? He coughed awkwardly. Mr. Guo Baokun on the wheelchair could no longer suppress his anger and he yelled, "Quit trying to twist the truth! This illegitimate bastard is just using the Fan family’s authority. He’s so reckless because he doesn’t think the law applies to him!"
Zheng Tu’s face darkened when he heard the words illegitimate bastard. He deeply agreed with the young master’s wise decision of beating up the man in the wheelchair. He spoke coldly, "As the compiler of the imperial palace, you should watch what you say. I know that you are angry, but you shouldn't throw tantrums. After all, you work closely with the crown prince, and it would be a shame to hurt the reputation of the palace."
While those words directly offended Guo Baokun, they were also filled with shade. In terms of authority, The Fan could not be compared to the Guo family, who worked closely with the crown prince, and what Guo Baokun had said before was naturally inappropriate. This caused another wave of discussion by the civilians outside. There were many more who believed Fan Xian to be innocent.
Although Fan Xian was expressionless, on the inside he was thoroughly impressed by Zheng Tu, who utilized all of his plans flawlessly. It seemed weird that the lawyer Song Shiren was not as desperate as Guo Baokun. Song Shiren smiled and said, "Magistrate, my master is in pain. Would you allow us to rest?"
Mei Zhili nodded, and Guo Baokun went to the backroom with the help of his servants. At this moment, Song Shiren turned and bowed to Fan Xian and Zheng Tu, saying, "So it looks like Mr. Fan will not be admitting to beating people up." For some unknown reason, Guo Baokun’s face was full of life as he left. It was as if the real battle was about to begin.
Zheng Tu and Fan Xian smiled in unison and said nothing. Who were they kidding? Niulan Street was pitch black, there were no witnesses, and no evidence. What did they plan on using as proof? What’s more, it was stated clearly on the document of complaint that the servants from Guo mansion were drugged, so nobody would believe their witness statement that "Fan Xian beat him up." Mei Zhili frowned and called Song Shiren to the front and spoke in a low voice, "Let's wrap it up for today."
Song Shiren bowed as he spoke, "Mr. Guo is the compiler of the imperial palace and he was beaten up. How could you close this important case so carelessly?"
Mei Zhili was agitated, "When did I say I was closing the case? I’m just simply delaying it. If you wish to claim that he had been beaten up, then get some evidence to prove who did it." It was said that the court was not allowed to carry out punishments on officials in public, and even if Fan Xian was not a scholar, he doubted that they would punish him. It was basically impossible to get him to admit what he had done.
Surprisingly Song Shiren turned round to ask, "Mr. Fan was at home all night yesterday?"
"That’s right. The servants of our mansion are witnesses." Zheng Tu replied.
Song Shiren laughed coldly, "Call in the witnesses." Mei Zhili realized that there may be a change to his initial judgement and he nodded. Servants from Guo mansion brought in a bunch of people, all dressed differently and with different jobs. There was a dumpling seller, a night watcher, bearers for businesses in streets and even a prostitute; the list just went on and on.
Zheng Tu frowned uneasily and the people watching from the sidelines questioned curiously, "What’s with all this?"

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